Zac’s Flick Pick: ‘Freaks’

Poster courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Poster courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Zac Younkins

What does it take to get a film banned? There’s certainly an aspect of controversy, but usually films that become banned are simply too ahead of their time for audiences. Take the 1932’s classic, “Freaks” as a prime example. “Freaks” is a drama horror film directed by Tod Browning, director of “Dracula” and a former circus employee himself.

“Freaks” was shot in a pre-code era of Hollywood when violence, sex, drugs, homosexuality and even abortion were all fair game to show on the silver screen. This was also a period before many regulations on hurting animals and exploiting groups of people were established. Thus, you get

“Freaks”, a film starring actual circus freaks including Siamese twins, dwarfs, bearded ladies and a cornucopia of other disfigured people. The film revolves around a dwarf seduced into marrying a beautiful dancer so she could attain his wealth.

The film was made in a time when audiences did not want to see social issues, wake-up calls, or any other kind of subtle propaganda, cinema was simply a means of escapism.

The film was banned for 30 years following its release in England. “Freaks” has a simple message of acceptance, which holds up to this day; it’s still eye-opening to see how circus “freaks” were treated and mocked by circus goers. Browning shows us that the so-called freaks aren’t really monsters; in fact, in this case, it’s the “normal” people who are.

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